Honoring St. Patrick’s Day (Two Guest Voices)
In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, TMV via Cagle Cartoons gives you these two great guest columns.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day
by Martha Randolph Carr
Last St. Patrick’s Day I was living in New York City, which you’d think would carry the day for celebrating the Emerald Isle. But, this year I’m perched in Chicago where there are signs everywhere that say, ‘Kiss me, I’m Chi-Irish’, and the Chicago River has been running green since Saturday.
The trains were already packed early Saturday morning with crowds of people dressed in green beads and funny green hats. It was a Mardi Gras mood but without the liquor or parade. That comes later.
This is a town that celebrates the Irish, who lead the pack in a city packed with ethnic flavor, according to the last census, with over 200,000 citizens who identify themselves as Gaelic every day of the year. This year’s census will have to include me as well.
The truth is I’m more of a Gaelic mutt with just as much Welsh and Scot ancestry but it was the Irish traditions we always celebrated. It was only recently that I realized not everyone throws a large party after a funeral where you tell outlandish stories about the dearly departed with a whiskey toast.
We also tend to worship the old furniture passed down to us from someone who’s been gone for a hundred years even if the contraption is so uncomfortable to use rendering it practically useless.
I also come from a long line of wonderful storytellers who’ve been known to conveniently change a couple of facts in order to tell a better tale. I suppose it’s very Irish of me to want to rebel against that and become a journalist who fact checks everything and looks for the holes in stories.
I also can’t let the holiday go by without mentioning that this would have also been my late father, Dabney’s 86th birthday. He was an Irishman born on St. Patrick’s Day who was particularly good at getting a laugh and then a few tears out of crowd in under twenty minutes even if they’d heard the story a few times already.
On my father’s side we come from a long line that loves to gather in large groups, eat, drink and shout over each other with stories.
In his last years my Dad spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals. No matter how often he went in, his five grown children and assorted others would gather with food and decorations as if we were taking over the place. Someone always made sure the nurses also got a plate.
I came to see him in the hospital and on one occasion heard him first. He was in the elevator, in his bed, being wheeled to another floor for tests and was loudly singing a hymn with the nurse. I’m sure it was his idea. He saw me, smiled and kept right on singing as the doors closed.
My mother, Tina, who is more Welsh than Irish, was a good sport and knit each of us an Irish cable sweater that was similar to the Scot’s plaid kilts. The type of cable pattern was used a long time ago to identify at a glance the family line. We each have a sweater carefully tucked away somewhere.
Dad even had a potted shamrock plant that he would only water in the warmer months. Every winter it would wither down to nothing and look like it needed to be thrown out. However, every spring right about now he’d start to water it again and the plant would burst back into life and bloom with little white flowers. Dad said that’s really why the plant was so linked to the Irish people. You can try and do us in but we’ll just wait for better times and then spring back and bloom even more magnificently than ever. Maybe that’s why all of America wants to be Irish, even if it’s just for one day out of the year. Erin Go Bragh, everyone..
©2010 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha’s column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. It is licensed to run on TMV in full.
Why We Need More Irish Spirit
by Tom Purcell
Their slogan wasn’t “Irish need not apply.” It was worse.
I speak of a battle I witnessed in Old Town, Alexandria, Va., a decade ago — a battle that involved a popular Irish pub, Pat Troy’s Ireland’s Own, and a condo association.
A new landlord purchased the building in which Troy’s pub had resided for 19 years. The landlord wanted to turn the pub space into office space. He asked Troy to vacate.
Troy, an Irish immigrant known for his many charitable causes, bought a building two blocks away. He planned to relocate his pub there – right next to the condo association.
That’s when all hell broke loose.
The condo people did not want an Irish pub to be near them. They launched a political assault that made the Chicago politicians look like Quakers.
First came their “NOLUV” slogan. It stood for “noise, overcrowding, litter, urinating and vomiting.”
Then came accusations about the behavior of the pub’s patrons — that they’d drink too many pints of Guinness and sing “The Unicorn Song” into the wee hours.
Next came their angry letter to city officials. It complained that “Troy’s pub isn’t just a bar, it’s an IRISH bar … and it will affect our property values …”
My great great grandfather came to America from Ireland in the late 1800’s. He surely suffered similar indiscretions. That they’re still occurring is no surprise to me.
But the Irish can take it.
We, of Irish descent, can take the drinking jokes: Why did God invent whiskey? To keep the Irish from taking over the Earth. What’s a seven-course Irish meal? A potato and a six-pack. What’s the difference between an Irish wedding and an Irish wake? One less drunk.
We don’t mind the one about the tragedy at the Guinness factory. McAlister fell into a vat of Guinness and he drowned. Cleary, McAlister’s best friend, went to tell McAlister’s wife. When she opened her front door, Cleary was crying.
“There was a tragedy at the factory?” she said.
“Yes, missus. Your husband fell into a vat of Guinness and drowned.”
“Tell me, Cleary,” she said crying. “Did he at least die quickly?
“Not exactly, missus,” said Cleary. “He got out of the vat three times to use the bathroom.”
We don’t mind the one about the Irishman who finds a tea kettle in the woods. When he rubs it, a genie pops out and grants him three wishes. The Irishman wishes for a bottle of whiskey; it appears in his hands. When he drinks it, the bottle automatically refills. He drinks it again, and it refills.
“What’s that?” says the Irishman.
“That’s the bottle of infinity,” says the genie. “Every time you empty it, it will be replenished. What are you last two wishes?”
“Give me two more bottles!”
No, the Irish don’t mind such jokes. The Irish learned to laugh at themselves long ago.
And when a group of boorish condo people succeeded in thwarting the move of Troy’s pub to the building he had purchased — Alexandria’s city council voted to block his move — Troy didn’t cry of unfairness or bigotry or hate speech.
He did what Americans used to do: he relocated to another building, where he is still serving many delicious pints.
In an America in which everyone is so easily offended and ready to sue, we all could have a little more Irish spirit – and certainly more Irish humor.
Which reminds me of this one: What is Irish and sits on the porch all night long?
©2010 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. His column is licensed to run on TMV in full.